Cities and villages in the Gospels

Here is my map for cities (or villages or small towns) in the four canonical Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Making this map was more interesting than I anticipated–I am generally more interested in the larger Greek and Roman cities in which Paul traveled and Acts recorded than in the landscape of the Gospels.

Working through these texts made me think more about what qualifies as a city. Are we even in the realm of “cities” in the Gospels? Mostly, I’ve recorded mention of smaller villages and some bonafide cities (Jerusalem, Tiberias, the Decapolis), but not mention of regions or unnamed cities. The actual locations of some of these are questionable (which Cana? Bethphage? Dalmanutha/Magadan/Magdala — which is it??).

Unsurprisingly, the most mentioned city in all of the Gospels is … Jerusalem.  Second place in the synoptic three is … Nazareth, most often in the phrase “Jesus of Nazareth.” Second place in John is Capernaum, while the bronze goes to Nazareth, Cana, and Bethany (near Jerusalem).

As in Acts, Paul’s letters, and Revelation, we have “semi-mythical” cities: Cities in which Paul, John, Jesus, or any other Christians do NOT interact: Sodom (Rom 9:29; Matt 10:15[and Gomorrah]. Rev 11:8; Luke 10:12), Babylon (Rev 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2-24; Matt 1:11-12, 17), Nineveh (Luke 11:30-32; Matt 12:2). Matthew and Luke alone among the Gospels trade in semi-mythical cities. But, note the difference between how Matthew treats Babylon compared to Revelation– for Matthew, Babylon marks eras in Jewish history. Sodom and Nineveh are used as foils for present day cities in Galilee that do not accept Jesus and his disciples: At judgment day, they will be judged more harshly than Sodom, and Nineveh will recognize something greater than Jonah.

The cities on the map are color coded according to which Gospels they appear in:

Red – Cities in all four Gospels

Yellow – Cities in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke)

White – Cities in Matthew, Luke, and John

Green – Cities in Matthew and Mark

Blue – Cities in Matthew and Luke

Pink – Cities in Matthew only

Purple – Cities in Luke only

Teal – Cities in John only

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Cities and villages in the Gospels by Jill E. Marshall is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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